This week has led me to question Arsene Wenger somewhat on two fronts. These being: his tactical substitutions and his refusal to give up on certain players.
Jens Lehmann has dropped two clangers in two league games. Against Fulham the players bailed him out but were not able to repeat the trick today. They were not simple errors, but down right horrible clangers.
Last Sunday a simple pass caused him to lose co-ordination and today a shot straight at him somehow made him punch it behind him and into the top corner. The problem with Lehmann is it seems like he is becoming more of a liability as time goes on. We all know about him problems at set pieces. He has trouble coming through a crowd to collect a ball without trying to knock half these people and this creates doubt and uncertainty, which often leads to the opposing team grabbing a goal. So what has this got to do with Wenger? Well, surely Lehmann should be dropped. Maybe one can excuse one error at the very start of the season BUT when it happens two league games in a row it must be at the point where a change is required. Maybe Wenger will give Almunia or Fabianski a go. He has done it with Lehmann once before and it ended up motivating Jens to better performances. However he has twice said he’ll leave Lehmann to understand his own responsibility.
To me that sounds like he will give him another chance in the hope he will naturally change these ways. However if I was Almunia in particular, I would be very angry if Lehmann was given even one more chance. Last season Almunia was excellent in the cup competitions and impressed hugely in the pre-season period of games. Why should he not be given a chance? Wenger has spoken of competition with his goalkeepers. Has Lehmann not cracked under the pressure and left a space for one of the other two to capitalise.
It is time for Wenger to take a risk and give the others a chance. It will either give them a lease of life and they will be very good or they will also crack under the spotlight of the big game. At the very least it will show Lehmann he has to sort out his act. This would lead to the best of Jens and surely benefit Arsenal as a team. The key question is does Wenger have the bottle. He took Henry out of the squad to face Tottenham last year despite Henrys desire to play. However the counter argument is the case of someone like Alexandre Song or Mathieu Flamini.
Last season Flamini declared his desire to play in central midfield, not at full back. This led to his absence from every squad since January. He then wanted to leave the club over the summer but no concrete bids came in. Wenger gave him a pardon and he has now started every game this season. Was this shrewd by Wenger seeing that Gilberto will out and Denilson and Diaby are out. Now Denilson is back and Diaby will return soon we will see what Wenger does. I would go as far to say it is unfair on Diaby and Denilson if Wenger persists with Flamini.
A player that declares his desire to leave and not help the team wherever he is needed is kept on by Wenger and given more chances to play; whereas other players that will play anywhere for he cause dont get into the team. This does not seem fair in the slightest. The answer waits to be seen. When everyone is fully fit, will Flamini be shipped from back to the very outskirts of the fringes like before or get more chance than those who have been more loyal?
The second thing from today is the tactical substitutions of Wenger. Today at 1-0 up Wenger took of Eduardo and brought on Denilson. Fair enough Eduardo couldn’t complete 90 minutes on his return from injury. However there was tactical thinking involved aswell. Wenger went 5 in midfield with Hleb and/or Walcott supporting Van Persie. Almost immediately afterwards Blackburn equalised and forced Wenger into another change. It seemed by taking Walcott off he wasn’t sure whether to go for the win or hold back. It was both.Â He went two up front to offer more threat. He also kept Flamini, Denilson and Fabregas on the pitch. This still left 3 deep lying central midfield players on. If Wenger wanted the win why not sacrifice Flamini for Bendtner and keep the attacking threat of a lively Walcott on the pitch aswell? This is where I question Wenger.
First of all why go 5 across midfield?Â Arsenal’s best form of defence is attack. Therefore 2 forwards is the way forward (excuse the accidental double meaning). Wenger tried to sure up with a packed midfield and it backfired. The way to see out this game was keep the ball from Blackburn and try and grab a second with the threat of a counter. He has Bendtner on the bench so had the option to shape up this way. Yet he went for the safe option and I hate to say it, you don’t challenge for the league with caution. People have questioned Wenger before, away at Blackburn in the FA Cup 5th Round Replay another case. With Hoyte coming off Wenger had Toure, Gallas and Senderos on the field of play. He chose to put Senderos out at full back where he is not comfortable; leaving the two players who have played right back in their careers in the middle against players good in the air. This backfired horribly with Senderos being lost out there and being beaten easily to leave McCarthy a free shot at goal. Why did Wenger do this? Only he knows but there certainly were question marks. This is not to say Wenger hasn’t got it right before. However I just hope Lehmann is dropped for both him and the team and Wenger thinks about attacking if we are to have any hope of winning these tricky games and challenging for the Premiership.Rant Over!!